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Homeless Should Be Helped, Not Feared

July 10, 1988

May I comment on the article regarding homeless in (Palisades) Park by Staff Writer Christopher Krueger (Times, June 26). Two (headlines were on) the story: "Trouble in Santa Monica Paradise" and "Tension Rises Over Homeless in Park"--both misleading in fact and in substance. The reporter quotes Leonard Gross, a member of the city's Commission on Older Americans, that the presence of homeless (people) prevents him and his wife from strolling in Palisades Park after dark: "There is a class of homeless I call hobos. They're bums. . . . They're dangerous. We've had many muggings there. We don't walk there anymore because it's dangerous."

Mr. Gross spoke for himself. He did not speak for the commission or in behalf of the commission, which did not make any decision or take any vote on the matter.

At this meeting, as a member of the commission, I presented views contrary to those expressed by Mr. Gross. After two decades as director of Levin Senior Adult Center, my retirement led me to serve as a volunteer for the homeless program of St. Joseph Center for more than a year. My experience deepened my understanding of the problems and plight of the homeless. . . . We blame the homeless for their condition as we blame poverty on the poor, unemployment on the jobless, and so on.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 14, 1988 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 3 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of a typographical error, Morrie Rosen's name, as it appeared as a signature to his letter to the editor, was misspelled in Sunday's Westside section.

I helped feed, talked to and listened to the homeless for those many months. . . . (There were) children, elderly, male and female, (and) varied races and cultures. Ninety-nine percent had one hope in common--not to be homeless, to find a job with or without job training, to receive medical and dental health care and mental health counseling--to be a member of society, not viewed as an "enemy of the people."

The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau's concern for summer tourism would be more properly focused on cleaning up the polluted and toxic waters of Santa Monica Bay for both tourists and residents of the city.

We are fortunate for the safety and security provided by the Santa Monica Police Department, on foot, motorcycle, auto and horseback; by the vigilant park rangers; by the city attorney enforcing the law without violating civil rights and civil liberties (safeguards for one group are safeguards for all groups), and by the director and staff of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, adding another dimension to safety and recreational pleasure for the elderly and younger people.

Recently, I returned from a visit to Washington, D.C. A highlight was looking at the Vietnam War Memorial, an emotional experience affecting a million people annually. We revere and dignify the memory of our war dead at our nation's capital, and that is as it should be.

Among the homeless in Los Angeles, in Santa Monica, are Vietnam veterans.

Fear of walking after dark in the park cannot be attributed to the homeless. Fear of walking after dark almost everywhere is endemic in our times.

Do as I do. Just a suggestion: Walk in the daytime, as I have done these past 20 years, in Palisades and other parks, as do children with parents, young lovers holding hands, seniors and families watching the beauty of our horizon, reaching for paradise in the Palisades.


Santa Monica

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